Antanas Gudaitis

*1904 in Sjauljaj, Lithuania

† 1989

Antanas Gudaitis, The Prodigal Son, 1971/72, oil on canvas, 130 x 152 cm, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen, loan of the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021 / Photo: Simon Vogel

Antanas Gudaitis’ (1904-1989) work The Prodigal Son from 1971/72 shows a recurring motif in art history: the biblical story of the prodigal son is found in the Gospel of Luke (15:11-12) and serves Jesus as one of three parables to describe the joy of finding the lost.
In this parable, the youngest son leaves his family with the disbursed portion of his inheritance. After squandering all the money and subsequently almost starving as a swineherd, he decided to return to his family to ask them to take him back. His father rejoices at the return of the son he thought lost, while the older brother cannot understand why the father forgives the younger one.
Gudaitis depicted the part of the parable where the son was still working as a swineherd before returning to his family. The figure of the son sits in the right half of the picture, a slender staff leaning loosely against his scrawny body. His gaze is directed towards two pigs at his feet on the left side of the picture. In the left background is a figure dressed in a long robe, whose gaze leads to the centre of the picture, where no other figurative or representational objects can be discerned.
The rough brushstroke has a chalky effect, especially in the foreground, due to the use of a lot of white paint, and separates the two figures depicted. The figure in the background wears dark clothes, while that of the son wears no clothes and his greyish-pink skin ties in with his poverty, which is of bearing importance in the parable.

KH